Northwest Iowa, Nebraska experience ‘exceptional’ drought


The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.

Grace Smith | September 15, 2022

A small portion of Iowa – 0.2 percent – is experiencing exceptional drought status per the Sept. 8 U.S. Drought Monitor. The drought that northwest Iowa is in stands as the worst category of dryness by the drought monitor. This is the first time Iowa has received an “exceptional drought” classification since 2013. 2.2 percent of the state sits in an extreme drought. 

In addition to the drought, good crop conditions decreased slightly, per a U.S. Department of Agriculture report Monday. 63 percent of corn and soybeans were rated good or excellent, a three percent decrease from the week before. 

Although Iowa is only seeing an exceptional drought rating in 0.2 percent of the state, 10.5 percent of Nebraska is experiencing the worst drought classification, about a four percent increase from Aug. 30. 27.7 percent of the state is in an extreme drought, about an eight percent increase from last week. 

Lincoln, Nebraska has received less than an inch of rain over the past two months and had its fifth driest August on record. 84 percent of the state has short or very short topsoil moisture, and Omaha officials have requested water restrictions. 

The National Weather Service’s forecast predicts a 20 to 40 percent chance of showers in Nebraska this weekend, which could present some relief.

Water temperatures are experiencing a record high


Sunrise Colours
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 14, 2022

Recently, the Northern Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans have been experiencing abnormally warm temperatures. Marine life is now experiencing heat waves similar to those on land.  

As the earth warms and climate change becomes more prevalent, the ocean absorbs the heat. With the rise in greenhouse gases comes the warming of land due to hotter temperatures. This heat becomes stored by the ocean. According to a recent study authored by John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, “The pace of warming has increased about 500 percent since the late 1980s.” 

Dillon Amaya, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical Sciences Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, said that temperatures have risen as much as 9 degrees F. Amaya said, “It’s been very extreme — some of the hottest temperatures we’ve seen on record — and they’ve hung around for several months.” 

The warming of ocean waters can lead to rising water levels and large impacts on marine life like a population rise in invasive species and other effects on marine ecosystems.  

Climate change could worsen issues with the supply chain


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | September 13, 2022

A record-setting drought across China in August led to many immensely disrupted economic activities by stopping supply chains for automobiles, electronics, and more. This drought-induced interruption in the supply chain likely won’t the be last supply chain issue caused by climate change.

The severe drought in China caused rivers to dry up, negatively affecting hydropower. The lack of water flow is impacting areas in China that rely heavily on water power, including Sichuan, which gets over 80 percent of its energy from hydropower. The drought also forced many companies to halt business operations and stop shipping. 

White House economics said climate change-caused natural disasters like droughts and wildfires becoming more frequent would likely disrupt delivery on a global scale and worsen supply shortages, as seen in examples of U.S. natural disasters in the past few years:

  • Droughts in the western portion of the U.S. has put additional stress on agricultural exports.
  • Wildfires in the western U.S. have harmed the planning and logistics of larger delivery companies like Amazon. 
  • Texas winter storms in February 2021 shut down semiconductor plants, causing a shortage of chips across the world.

“What we just went through with [COVID-19] is a window to what climate could do,” Kyle Meng, associate professor of environmental economics in California told the New York Times.

The National Centers for Environmental Information calculated the number of billion-dollar natural disasters in America has grown to an average of 20 in the past two years. These increased disasters and high temperatures could create competition for food and prompt new policies that stop the exports of food.

Solar Energy in Iowa: Policies and Practices at the Municipal, County, and State Levels


Via: University of Iowa

Elyse Gabor | September 11, 2022

On Tuesday, October 11th, Iowa Law is hosting a discussion surrounding the Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative (HELI). The event will feature panel discussions with policy experts, researchers, industry members, public employees, and nonprofit organization representatives. The panels will discuss solar policies around Iowa. Following the guest speakers, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. Breakfast and lunch will be included at the event. Attendance is both in person and virtual and open to all ages. If interested, register at: https://uiowa.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lU6iMrnn17eLu6  

For more information, visit: https://events.uiowa.edu/73266 

Continued global warming will set off five climate ‘tipping points’


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 9, 2022

Failure to stop the continuation of global warming will set off five major climate tipping points if warming surpasses 1.5 degrees Celsius, per a new study. Currently, the earth is warming at a level of 1.1 degrees, but if that number hits over 1.5, those disastrous changes will become irreversible.  

The study estimates that 1.5 degrees Celsius warming will trigger extreme ice melt for Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which could lead to over 30 feet of sea level rise. Coral reef deaths will occur from 1.5 to 2 degrees, and an important current in the North Atlantic will also stop circulating, impacting weather in Europe. The study also found that larger ocean currents will stop circulating above 2 degrees of global warmth and the Amazon Rainforest will die. 

“Since I first assessed tipping points in 2008, the list has grown and our assessment of the risk they pose has increased dramatically,” Tim Lenton told The Guardian. “Our new work provides compelling evidence that the world must radically accelerate decarbonizing the economy.”

To limit warming from 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius – a 2015 Paris agreement policy that the study indicated is crucial to abide by – all countries must complete promises of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, for there is no leeway or flexibility in not following through.

Climate change challenges human ability to properly cool down


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 8, 2022

As the Earth warms, scientists realize outdoor humidity is making it challenging for sweat to cool down bodies properly. Normally, the body can cool itself by sweating, but when humidity is at a high level, sweat will not evaporate as fast, threatening human health and life.

“The inability to cool down leaves us more than just uncomfortable. It actually wears on our internal processes,” Dr. Benjamin of Health Partners said in a company blog. “As our core temperature continues to rise, our bodies need to work harder to try and cool us down. This causes us to overheat.”

Professor of Physiology and Kinesiology, Larry Kenney conducts tests in his lab at Penn State. Kenney puts test subjects in a climate-controlled room and has them walk on a treadmill as he increases the room’s humidity. It is harder to get subjects’ core temperatures to cool down with that increase. Kenney told NPR when the temperature gets close to the humidity of sweat on the skin, it can no longer evaporate.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1,300 deaths per year in the United States are heat-related, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said that heat-related health issues will continue to rise with an increase in heat.

A rapid melting glacier could cause sea levels to rise


Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 7, 2022

The “doomsday” glacier is projected to melt faster than predicted. The melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is expected to cause a sudden rise in sea levels. 

Anna Wåhlin, a co-author of the study and a professor of physical oceanography at Sweden’s Gothenburg University, told NBC News, “Thwaites ticks several boxes of a glacier that might be experiencing a faster retreat in the future: It is retreating back into a deeper basin, it is in contact with warm ocean currents, it has a very large catchment area that stores large amounts of ice.” 

This glacier, one of Antarctica’s largest, is about the size of the state of Florida. Due to warming temperatures and recent observations, scientists predicted that it could collapse within the next 10 years.  

Experts are unsure of what the outcome of the collapse will hold. However, it is believed that the sea levels will rise about two feet.  

Drought conditions in Iowa are projected to cut soybean harvest


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 6, 2022

Areas in Iowa are experiencing harsh drought conditions with little rain, per the U.S. Drought Monitor on Sept. 1. Iowa’s summer drought conditions spilling into September presents the problem of cutting soybean harvest later in the month. 

The report shows that 40.07 percent of Iowa experiencing a moderate drought, up 1.2 percent from last week. 19.27 of Iowa is dealing with severe drought conditions, and 2.08 percent of the state is in an extreme drought. The estimated population in Iowa undergoing drought is 1,040,243 people.

Along with drought affecting people, the heat is taking a toll on crops. On average, soybean yields are projected to drop to 58 bushels per acre this year, compared to 62 bushels in 2021, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Aug. 12. Harvest is expected to decrease 4.7 percent from 2021.

Despite the decline, Iowa is still projected to be named the second largest soybean producer by harvesting 592.8 million bushels in the fall; a decrease of 29.1 million from last year.Despite heavy rainfall last week up to four inches in areas across Iowa, portions of the state in the southeast received less than half an inch, and remain dry. Southeast Iowa has about 10 percent of adequate soil moisture for crops. To compare, in northeast Iowa, 90 percent of the soil has adequate water for crops.

Pheasants are seeing a population boom


pheasant
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | September 5, 2022

Recent population surveys show that Iowa’s pheasant population has grown exponentially. This was caused by a lack of snowfall and mild winter conditions.  

According to Todd Bogenschutz, wildlife research biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “If hunters enjoyed last year, they should enjoy this year.” 

Over the years, the population of the birds has drastically decreased. It became so low that hunters were able to shoot hens. This is now illegal as hens are vital for increasing the population numbers.  

The decrease in population was likely caused by loss of habitat, especially in hay acres. Numbers have shrunk to half of what they were 30 years ago. The decline is also caused by the weather and harsh winters with many inches of snowfall. However, due to the moderate winter this past year, the birds are experiencing a population boom.  

Pheasant hunting season opens in late October.  

33 million affected by climate change-induced intensity of Pakistan monsoon season


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 2, 2022

Pakistan is experiencing its worst monsoon season in over a decade. Over 33 million citizens have been impacted and over 1,100 people have been killed by the strong winds and increased rainfall that has submerged one-third of the country underwater. 

Although scientists are still determining how climate change has specifically affected the monsoon season, it is clear that global warming is increasing the likelihood of severe rain in South Asia

From June through September, rain falls and winds normally blow from the southwest, but, with global warming increasing, the warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture, creating a large increase in rainfall. Rainfall in Pakistan this year is three times the nation’s average in the past 30 years.

The monsoon-induced disasters have worsened the risk of diseases and caused 20,000 people in dire need of food and medical support. 

The United Nations established a joint appeal with Pakistan for $160 million. “The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during the appeal’s launch. “…Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change.”